"Mom, I need a cell phone?"
"Do you have a thriving medical practice I am unaware of?"
"What are you talking about? No."
"Well, I just wondered if you "needed" this cell phone because your patients were complaining they couldn't reach you."
"Mom," eye roll, "Be serious."
"I am being quite serious. You're thirteen. Why on earth do you "need" a cell phone?"
"What if you need to get a hold of me?"
"Considering that 50% of the time you are WITH ME, 25% of the time you are in school and the other 25% of the time you are asleep I don't foresee a problem."
"But what if I am at a friend's and they don't have a phone?"
"You have friends in third world countries?!"
"Mom! You're not being fair!"
"You're right. I'm sorry."
"So you're gonna get me a cell phone?"
"No, I'm sorry to have raised you with the mistaken impression that life is fair."
"But all my friends have cell phones!"
"Great, so if I need to reach you then I'll call one of them."
I won this round!
"Mom, I need a cell phone?"
I’m not sure if it is because I was an English Major or because etymology is my hobby or even because I think the art of rhetoric is fascinating. I am just not hung up on the individual words themselves. I generally say exactly what I mean and mean exactly what I say. It’s all about context.
This is why Chris Rock can call Kanye West a "niggah" but George Bush can't.
This is also why I have never had a problem with Little Dog using words which many (or most) consider to be inappropriate. He can say shit, damn, piss, and even fuck. I truly do not care. I do, however, care about words and phrases like: “Shut up!” or “Hate” or “Retarded.”
I mean, words can hurt, and the damage can extend further than to just the person you are saying them to. Using certain words can perpetuate stereotypes; dissuade compassion and even waste energy. Have you ever though of the energy it takes to “hate?”
Yup. Hate is a mighty strong word. In fact, I canot think of anyone, or even any thing I truly hate. When little dog first uttered “I hate this!’ I stopped him in his tracks and made him think hard about whether or not “this” (whatever it was) was really worth that kind of intense emotion. He agreed it probably was not and the word is not a part of his regular vocabulary today.
I may be a lot of things, but I am not a hypocrite. I would never tell my child he could not use a word he not only learned from me, but hears me use on a daily basis. I am, however, a realist, and I know I am not going to erase curse words from my vocabulary any time in the near future. “Fuck” has little literal meaning to me. I use it more as a punctuation term. I think it has replaced the frequent valley girl-esque use of “like.”
Therefore, the day Little Dog uttered his first curse word does not stand out in my mind as an event. I do chuckle at memories of him, at two years old, referring to his father as “Dammit Daddy” because he heard me utter the phrase so many times.
I also remember the day his kindergarten teacher pulled me aside at pickup time to deliver what, judging by her expression, looked to be some very sobering news.
“Little Dog said a ‘bad’ word today.” Miss Kirk told me in a whispered voice. “He said,” and here she lowered her voice to a barely audible whisper, “Ass.”
“And…” I thought, but out loud I said, “In what context did he say it?”
She looked at me as if I were crazy.
But I had a point. If he had told a classmate, in anger, that he was “gonna kick your ass!” that would be a problem to me. Likewise, if he had objectified someone by telling them they had a “fat ass” or even a “nice ass” I would have a problem.
“We were doing puzzles and his group was racing against another group and he said, ‘we’re gonna kick ass!’ ” Again, she lowered her voice to a whisper to say the offending word.
Okay, so my kid was overzealous in his puzzle working confidence. BFD. I did what any parent would do in the same circumstance.
I sold my kid out.
I think I said something like, “I am so sorry, I don’t know where he picked that up. I will definitely have a talk with him tonight.”
I mean, really, what was I going to say? She was obviously appalled and offended. I was not ready to become the outcast mommy who has no morals and pack that baggage in my son’s childhood experience. I had no choice.
Little Dog cried on the way home. He told me the whole story of how his beloved Miss Kirk was mad at him. He was truly worried she would not like him any more. I very calmly explained that, while we did not find those words to be offensive, other people often did. So, we decided it would probably be a good idea if he did not use certain words anywhere but at home. It was like how daddy wore his boxers around the house, but not in front of anyone but us. Some things, you just should not do/show/say to the world. I made sure Little Dog did not feel as if he had done something wrong – but rather, that he had accidentally done something inappropriate.
When RB got home I told him about the incident. “Where the fuck did he learn that shit?” RB mockingly asked.
He reiterated my lesson to Little Dog, who decided he wanted to call Miss Kirk and apologise before he went to bed.
I dialed the number as he anxiously held the phone. When she answered he said, “Miss Kirk? This is Little Dog. I wanted to say I am sorry that I offended you. I will not ever use that word around you again.”
Notice how he never actually apologised for saying “ass,” but only for offending her? I think he instinctively knew the whole “say what you mean/mean what you say thing!”
When he hung up we asked him if he felt better.
He told us that he felt “Damned good” about the whole thing and that he “Sure as hell would not talk that shit in class again.”
Not really, but you know, I am pretty sure that is probably what he was thinking.
If part of your active campaigning involves strategically placing your yard signs every three feet along the median/embankment/easement etc... Please remember to collect said yard signs after the vote is over. Because, even if you won this time, I guarantee I will never ever give you my vote again, should you choose to run, if you leave that crap out there for someone else to clean up.
A Tree Hugger
Gads! These signs are everywhere! Huge groupings of them! I kind of want to start collecting them all and then dump them in the yards or office lobbies of said candidate.
True annoyance here.
Also, note to any protesters out there: Please make your cause (and any alternatives) clearly obvious. Otherwise, you are just out there illustrating an exercise in futility.
I take protesting seriously. I think in this day and age it is a lost art. I also think it should be reclaimed as a viable means of opining. Too many people think they can sign and circulate an on-line petition and thus be “Activists.” Newsflash: Activism is about putting yourself out there for your cause and taking risks.
On-line petitions do neither. (Plus, it's really super hard to validate the results.)
The other day a group of people in my city decided to protest the war. About 25 Protesters showed up at the appropriate downtown corner adjacent to city hall. Their signs were large and colourful.
So far so good right? Well, yes, but that was the extent of it.
See, their signs said things like, "WAR IS BAD" and "STOP KILLING CHILDREN."
Uh, Okay. I’m pretty sure the general public is in agreement on both those points.
I like to talk to protesters, and this group had actually managed to get my attention, so I approached them.
"What are you protesting?"
"Oh, yes, I see. But what exactly should we be doing to end it? Or, what alternative are you proposing?"
Okay, error number one: Do not have un-informed protesters. Every single person on a picket line or holding a sign at a demonstration should fully understand the group's cause, and the basic facts upon which their conclusions were founded.
Error number two: Offer an alternative to what you are protesting, or a focus of your demonstration. We can all agree that war is a horrific thing. So what do you want me to do about it? Is there a particular candidate you want me to vote for or against? A particular bill? A specific atrocity that has happened which the general public is not being made aware of? Tell me something I don't already know!
The Pro Life group puts on a good protest. I, personally, do not agree with their cause, but their efforts are commendable for the following reasons: They go to where the action is and they go with a mission. They hope to literally stop abortion, one fetus at a time, by championing their cause directly to women entering the clinic. They hope to stop the practice of abortion by protesting outside the offices of those doctors who perform them, thus embarrassing and bringing attention to the docs and also to the women frequenting the practice. They show up in full force all over Capital Hill (and the media) any time a bill concerning abortion is in action. They have the lingo down (always a "baby" never a "fetus") and their statistics straight. (Note I said "their" statistics, because in truth statistics do lie.)
As I said, I do not agree with their opinions, but I do respect their abilities.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the group of divorced dads who gathered (last year) outside the courthouse to protest what they believed to be the unfair bias against dads having custody of the children. About 6 or 8 of them showed up and some of them had made signs. It was kind of a hot day, so within 30 minutes a few of them sat down in the shade. The others were simply standing on the sidewalk talking to each other. No one was holding his sign up. There were no women or children participating. Basically, a huge waste of time and, in fact, a very real demonstration of exactly why men do not they get custody: Because they lose interest quickly, become distracted easily and quit when it gets difficult.
Bad protest example number 2: A group of people lined up along 21st street (a medium traffic area) holding signs which clearly stated "Stop Big Oil" and "Take Back Control" and some general "Big Oil is Bad" red-circle-with-slash signage. Okay, fine. I had the opportunity to read many of the signs as I sat at a stop light, but not one of them told me how I could stop big oil, or who I should vote for or even why big oil is so bad.
So, another waste of time.
I'm all for a reviving the lost art of protesting. Tell me about a candlelight vigil and I'll Take Back the Night right along with you! Million Mom March? Sign me up! Gay Pride Parade? Sure! I'll wave to my friends in their cool convertibles and maybe even get my face painted in rainbow stripes.
But then you have to join me in my picket line in front of City Hall where I am holding a bonfire of all the freakin' election signage I have picked up. And I will be sure to point out how many and exactly who of our newly elected officials left this shit all over the city.